NSU degree programs help Cherokee Nation preserve language

BY D. SEAN ROWLEY
Senior Reporter
09/06/2020 10:00 AM
Audio Clip
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Northeastern State University traces a direct historical lineage to the Cherokee Nation. Its iconic Seminary Hall was once the Cherokee National Female Seminary, and two relocated columns of the original female seminary, which burned on Easter Sunday in 1887, stand to the south. NSUOK.EDU
TAHLEQUAH – In its efforts to preserve and promote Cherokee culture, the Cherokee Nation has attached tremendous significance to preserving the tribe’s language.

From the Cherokee Immersion Charter School (Tsalagi Tsunadeloquasdi) and the Cherokee National Youth Choir to the passage of the Durbin Feeling Cherokee Language Preservation Act, the CN gives millions of dollars each year to keeping Cherokee prose, poetry and song alive.

The tribe is not swimming by itself against the current – most fluent Cherokee speakers are at least 50 years old. Among the entities helping the CN is Northeastern State University, which offers three bachelor’s degrees in Cherokee language: American Indian studies, Cherokee language education and Cherokee cultural studies with an emphasis in either language revitalization or cultural heritage and self-determination.

Candessa Tehee, Department of Cherokee and Indigenous Studies assistant professor, is coordinator for the Cherokee language education and Cherokee cultural studies degree programs. She said all the degrees have practical applications, though the most obvious career path is offered by the CLE program.

“It is intended for students who want to teach Cherokee as a second language in public or private schools,” Tehee said. “The majority of our graduates have gone on to serve as Cherokee language instructors at the high school level while we have had small number go on to teach Cherokee language at the college level.”

Those in cultural studies receive a liberal arts education focusing on “critical thinking and reflective writing skills.” But it is language revitalization that has attracted the most students.

“These graduates have gone on to serve as support staff in Cherokee language programs such as Cherokee language technology, to work in museum education, to pursue graduate studies, and we even have an alumnus who holds elected office at Cherokee Nation,” she said. “Students who wish to improve their knowledge and understanding of Cherokee language yet don't want to pursue a career of classroom teaching most often pursue the Cherokee cultural studies language revitalization concentration.”

Most CCS and CLE classes are based in Cherokee language. Tehee said the classes focus on language speaking and listening comprehension foundations. More advanced courses work on grammatical analysis to enhance reading and writing skills.

Core classes for the cultural studies include Conversational Cherokee, Intermediate Cherokee 1 & 2, Cherokee Language Immersion, Cherokee Lifeways, Cherokee Cultural Heritage, Cherokee Legal History, History of Indian Education and Cherokee Literature and Texts.

The NSU programs focus on immersion. Tehee said the programs follow the Oklahoma State Department of Education recommendation that language classes be taught in 85 percent of the target language. Immersion models may use different models – total physical response or communication based instruction – but immersion is the goal.

Tehee, along with NSU instructor Wyman Kirk, is on the CN’s Native Language Community Coordinator Planning Committee with representatives of the tribe’s departments with language education and programming.

“In these meetings, we strategically work together to pool and coordinate resources,” Tehee said. “We work most closely with the Cherokee Nation Cherokee Language Master-Apprentice Program, the Cherokee Language Program and the Cherokee Immersion School in the education department. Our graduates are currently apprentices at CLMAP, teachers at immersion. CLMAP graduates are currently students in the NSU CCS and CLE programs, and we coordinate with teachers from immersion and speakers in the Cherokee Language Program for administering the Cherokee Oral Proficiency Assessment in our Cherokee language courses. This spring, both Wyman and I worked with Cherokee Nation to reevaluate the Subject Area Test for teachers at the Oklahoma State Department of Education.”

Through collaboration, Tehee said the NSU-CN partnership advances the “fight for Cherokee language revitalization. Communication between and the Nation and NSU is continuous, and the university administration is “immensely supportive.”

“Even if someone does not want a career path in the classroom as a Cherokee language teacher, there is still immense value in pursuing a degree that has Cherokee language at its core,” she said. “Our language is the key to our culture and all citizens need to do what they can on a daily basis to keep our language alive.”
ᏣᎳᎩ

ᏓᎵᏆ – ᎠᎾᏝᏂᎬᏁᎲ ᎠᎾᎵᏏᏅᏗᏍᎬᏃ ᏄᏍᏛ ᎢᎦᏕᏗ ᎨᏒ ᏣᎳᎩᎯ ᎠᏰᎵ ᎤᎪᏗᏗ ᏚᎾᏟᏴ ᎠᎾᎵᏍᏅᏗᏍᎬ ᎢᎩᎳᏍᏓᏢ ᎢᎩᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ.
ᏣᎳᎩ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᏂᏗᎬᎴᏂᏍᎩ ᎠᎴ ᎩᎳ ᏗᎾᏛᏍᎩ ᎤᎾᏓᏡᎩ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏗᏂᏃᎩᏍᎩ, ᎾᏃ ᏧᏂᎶᎯᏍᏔᏅ ᏗᎧᏅᏩᏛᏍᏗ ᏙᏗᏳᎵ ᏗᏒᏂᎯ ᏚᏙᏍᏛ ᎠᏅᏗᏍᎬ ᎢᎩᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎤᎾᎵᏏᏅᏙᏗ ᎤᎬᏩᎵ.ᏣᎳᎩᎯ ᎠᏰᎵ ᎢᎸᏍᎩ ᎢᏳᏆᏗᏅᏗ ᎠᏕᎳ ᎠᎾᎵᏍᏉᎸᏗᏍᎪ ᎾᏕᏘᏴᎯᏒ ᎢᎩᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎠᎾᎵᏏᏅᏗᏍᎬ ᎤᎬᏩᎵ, ᏗᎪᏪᎶᏕᏗ, ᎠᎴ ᏗᎧᏃᎩᏛ ᏂᏗᎦᏯᎢᏐ ᎢᏳᎵᏍᏙᏗᎢ.
ᏝᏰᏃ ᎢᎩᎳᏍᏓᏢ ᎤᏩᏒᏊ ᏱᏚᏟᏴᎯ - ᏭᏂᎪᏛᏃ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏂᏬᏂᏍᎩ ᎯᎩᏍᎪᎯ ᎤᎪᏗᎴ ᏱᎩ ᎢᏳᎾᏕᏘᏴᏗ. ᎤᎾᎵᎪᏒᏃ ᏣᎳᎩᎯ ᎠᏰᎵ ᎠᏂᏍᏕᎵᏍᎬ ᎤᏴᏢ ᏗᎧᎸᎬ ᎢᏗᏟ ᏩᎦᎸᎳᏗᏴ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ, ᏦᎢ ᎢᏳᏓᎴᎩ ᏓᎾᏕᏲᎲᏍᎩ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎤᎬᏩᎵ: ᎠᎹᏰᎵ ᎢᏕᎯᏯ, ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎠᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ, ᎢᏗᏣᎳᎩ ᏄᏍᏛ ᎢᎦᏕᏗ ᎠᏠᏯᏍᏛᏅᏃ ᎢᎩᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ, ᎢᎠᏝᏂᎪᏍᏙᏗ, ᎠᎴ ᏄᏍᏛ ᎢᎦᏕᏗᏱ.
Candessa Teehee ᏄᎬᏩᏳᏌᏕᎩ ᎠᎵᏍᏕᎵᏍᎩ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᎤᎾᏓᏡᎬ ᎠᎴ ᎠᏁᎯᏯ ᏗᎦᏎᏍᏔᏅ ᏗᏕᏲᏅ, ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎠᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏄᏍᏛ ᎤᎾᏕᏗᏱ. ᏂᎦᏓ ᎠᏛᏂᎢᏍᏛ ᎠᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᎬᏔᏂᏗᏍᏗ ᎢᏗᏢᏊ ᎣᏚᎵᏍᎬᎢ, ᎠᏎᏍᎩᏂ ᏭᎵᏍᎨᏗᏴᏃ ᎨᏒ ᎤᎾᏓᏡᎬᎢ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᏓᎾᏕᏲᎲᏍᎬᎢ.”ᏄᏂᏰᎸᏒᏃ ᏗᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᎩ ᏳᎾᏚᎵ ᏧᏁᏲᏗ ᎠᏂᏐ ᏅᏩᏓᎴ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎤᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᎾᎿ ᏂᎦᎵᏍᏗᎢᏊ ᎩᎶ ᏗᎦᏳᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᏕᎪᏢᏒ ᎾᎴ ᏱᎩ ᎤᏤᎵᏗ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗᎢ”, ᎠᏗ Teehee. “ᏭᏂᎪᏛ ᏧᏂᏍᏆᏛ ᎾᎿ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏓᎾᏕᏲᎲᏍᎬ ᎾᏊ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏫᏓᎾᏕᏲᎲᏍᎩ ᎦᎸᎳᏗ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗᎢ ᎢᎦᏛᏃ ᏩᎦᎸᎳᏗᏴ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗᎢ”. ᎾᏃ ᏄᏍᏛ ᎢᎦᏕᏗᏱ ᎤᎾᏕᎶᏆᎥ ᎢᎸᏍᎩ ᎢᏳᏓᎴᎩ ᏗᎦᏳᎾᏕᏲᏗᎢ ᎧᏃᎮᏍᎩ ᎪᏪᎵ ᏕᎨᏥᏅᏁᎰ ᎤᏓᏕᎯᏌᏘ ᎠᎾᏓᏅᏖᏍᎩ ᎠᎴ ᎣᏍᏓ ᎠᏓᏅᏖᏢ ᏗᏃᏪᎵᏍᎩ”. ᎠᏎᏃ ᏭᏂᎪᏛ ᎢᎩᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎤᎾᏝᏂᎪᎯᏍᏙᏗ ᎤᎾᏚᎵᏍᎪᎢ.”ᎯᎠ ᏧᏂᏍᏆᏛ ᎤᎾᎵᏍᏕᎸᎮᏂ ᎢᎩᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᏓᎾᏕᏲᎲᏍᎬᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎤᏦᏎᏗ ᏂᎬᎿᏅ ᏓᏏᎳᏕᏫᏒ ᎾᏃ ᎤᏪᏘ ᎠᏍᏆᏂᎪᏛ ᎠᎾᎵᏍᏕᎵᏍᎪ, ᎢᎦᏛᏃ ᏂᎬᏂᎯᎵᏐ ᏓᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᎪᎢ, ᎠᏂᏐᎢᏃ ᏧᏂᏍᏆᏛ ᏣᎳᎩᎯ ᎠᏰᎵ ᏧᎾᏓᎩᏴ ᏚᏂᎸᏫᏍᏓᏁᎰ,” ᎠᏗᎢ. “ᏗᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᎩ ᏳᎾᏚᎵ ᎤᎪᏛ ᎠᏂᎦᏔ ᏭᎾᏟᎢᎶᎯᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᏓᏤᏢ ᎤᏃᏟᏍᏗ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎠᏎᏃ ᏄᎾᏚᎵᏍᎬᎾ ᏱᎩ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᏧᎾᏕᏲᏗ ᎾᎿ ᎠᎾᏑᏰᏍᎪ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏄᏍᏛ ᎠᏕᏗᏱ ᎤᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎠᏝᏂᎪᎯᏍᏙᏗᎢ.ᎢᎦᏕᏗᏱ ᎠᎴ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᏓᎾᏕᏲᎲᏍᎬ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᏭᎵᏍᎨᏗᏴ ᎨᏐᎢ. ᎢᏳᏍᏗᏃ ᏚᏄᎪᏛ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎣᏍᏓ ᎠᏛᏓᏍᏙᏗ ᏄᏅᎿ. ᎤᎪᏗᏗ ᎠᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᎨᏒ ᏓᏤᏢ ᎪᎵᏥᏓᏍᏗ ᏄᏍᏗᏓᏅ ᎠᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᎢᎩᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎠᎴ ᎠᎪᎵᏰᏗ ᎾᏃ ᏗᎪᏪᎶᏗᎢ. ᏄᏍᏛ ᎢᎦᏕᏗᏱ ᏭᎾᏕᎶᏆᎥ ᏰᎵᏊ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᏣᎳᎩ, ᎤᎪᏗᏗᏃ ᎠᎬᏱ ᏔᎵᏁᏃ, ᏄᏍᏛ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏁᎲᎢ, ᏣᎳᎩ ᏄᏍᏛ ᎠᏕᏗᏱ ᏧᏂᎦᏴᎵᎨ ᎢᏳᎵᏍᏔᏅ, ᏂᏧᎵᏔᏂᏙᎸ ᎠᏂᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏁᎲᎢ ᏚᎾᏕᎶᏆᎥᎢ ᎠᎴ ᎢᏳᏍᏗ ᏗᎪᏪᎵ ᏧᏅᏙᏗ ᏓᎾᏕᎶᏆᎲᎢ.
NSU ᏚᏅᏓᏡᎬ ᎾᎿ ᏣᎳᎩᎭ ᎦᏬᏂᏍᏗ ᏩᏍᎪᎵᏴᎢ. ᎠᏗ Teehee. ᎣᎦᎳᎰᎻ ᏗᎧᎾᏩᏛᏍᏗ ᏚᏂᎲ ᏓᏂᏍᏓᏩᏓ ᎾᎿ ᏁᎵᏍᎪᎯᏁ ᎢᎦ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᏧᎾᏑᏰᏗ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏧᎾᏕᏲᏗᎢ. ᏣᎳᎩᎭ ᏓᎾᏕᏲᎲᏍᎬ ᏧᏓᎴᏅᏗ ᏗᎬᏕᏲᏙᏗ ᏓᎾᏗᏍᎪ - ᎠᏎ ᎢᏳᎾᏛᏁᏗ ᎢᏳᏍᏗ ᎨᎨᏲᎲᏍᎬᎢ, ᎾᎴ ᏱᎩ ᎢᏳᏂᏪᏍᏗ ᎠᎾᏕᎶᏆᎲᎢ - ᎠᏎᏃ ᏣᎳᎩᎭ ᎤᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᏩᏍᎪᎵᏴᎢ.
Teehee, ᎠᎴ Wyman Kirk NSU ᏗᏕᏲᎲᏍᎩ, ᏃᎴ ᏣᎳᎩᎯ ᎠᏰᎵ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏗᎾᏕᏲᎲᏍᎩ ᏚᎾᏓᏡᎬ ᎤᎾᎵᎪ ᏣᎳᎩᎯ ᎠᏰᎵ ᎧᎻᏗ ᎤᎾᏙᏢᏒ ᏓᏄᎪᏓᎾᏂᏙᎲ ᎾᎿ ᏗᏍᎦᏚᏗ ᏚᏙᏢᏒ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏧᎾᏕᏲᏗᎢ.
“ᏱᏙᎦᏠᏏᏃ, ᏙᏧᎪᏗᏍᎬ ᎢᏧᏍᏗ ᏙᏓᏲᏨᏓᏂᏒ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏗᏕᏲᏙᏗ,” ᎠᏗ Teehee. “ᏭᎪᏛ ᎾᏂᎨᏍᏗ ᎣᎦᎵᎪᏒ ᏣᎳᎩᎯ ᎠᏰᎵ ᏣᎳᎩᎭ ᏓᎾᏕᏲᎲᏍᎬ ᎤᎾᏓᏡᎩ, ᎠᎴ ᏣᎳᎩᎯ ᎠᏰᎵ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏂᏬᏂᏍᎩ ᎤᎾᏓᏡᎬᎢ, ᎾᏃ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗᎢ. ᏧᏂᏍᏆᏛᏃ ᏣᎳᎩᎭ ᏓᎾᏕᏲᎲᏍᎬ ᏫᏓᎾᏕᏲᎲᏍᎩ, ᎠᎴ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗᎢ. ᏣᎳᎩᎭ ᏓᎾᏕᏲᎲᏍᎬ ᏧᏂᏍᏆᏛ NSU ᏫᏓᎾᏕᎶᏆ, ᏣᎳᎩ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ ᏗᎾᏕᏲᎲᏍᎩ ᎠᎴ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎠᏂᏬᏂᏍᎩ ᎤᎾᏓᏡᎬ ᎣᏣᎵᎪᎲᏍᎪ ᏙᏦᏢᏍᎪ ᏗᎪᏪᎵ ᏗᎪᎵᏰᏙᏗ ᎢᎦ ᎦᏳᏂᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎨᏒ ᏗᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᎩ. ᎯᎠ ᎪᎨᏱ ᏥᎨᏒ, Wyman, ᎠᏯ, ᏣᎳᎩᎯ ᎠᏰᎵᏃ ᎤᎾᏓᏡᎬ ᏫᏙᎩᎪᎵᏰᎥ ᏗᎪᏪᎵ ᏗᎪᎵᏰᏙᏗ ᏗᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᎩ ᎢᎦ ᎤᎾᏕᎶᏆᎥ ᎠᏏ ᏰᎵ ᏱᏂᏙ ᏗᎬᏙᏗ ᎾᎿ ᎣᎦᎶᎰᎻ ᏍᎦᏚᎩ ᎣᏏ ᎤᏂᏰᎸᏗᎢ”
NSU, ᏣᎳᎩᎯ ᎠᏰᎵᏃ “ᏙᏣᏝᏃᎮᏍᎬ ᏂᎦᏲᏥᎯᎵᏒ ᏙᎦᏟᏴᏒ ᎣᎦᏝᏂᎪᎯᏍᏙᏗ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎢᎩᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ”. ᎠᏏᏃ ᏂᎬᏩᏍᏗ ᏙᏣᏝᏃᎮᏍᎪᎢ, NSU ᎤᏂᎬᏩᏳᏌᏕᎩ “ᎤᎪᏗᏗ ᎤᏂᎫᏍᏓᎢ”.
“ᎢᏳᏃ ᎩᎶ ᏄᏚᎵᏍᎬᎾ ᏱᎩ ᏣᎳᎩ ᏧᏕᏲᏗ ᏧᎾᏕᎶᏆᏍᏗ, ᎠᏏᏃ ᎢᎸᏍᎩ ᎢᏳᏓᎴᎩ ᏚᏢᏅᏗ ᏣᎳᎩ ᎦᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎦᏳᏙᏗ ᎨᏒᎢ”. ᎠᏗ Teehee. “ᏣᎳᎩ ᎢᎩᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᏤᎦᏓᏁᏝᏂ ᏭᎵᏍᎨᏗᏴ ᎢᎬᏓᏂᏓᏍᏗ ᏂᏚᏙᏓᏈᏒ ᎢᏗᏣᎳᎩ ᎢᏕᎲᎢ ᎠᎴ ᏂᎦᏗᏳ ᏣᎳᎩᎯ ᎠᏰᎵ ᎢᏖᏝ ᎢᏓᏝᏂᎬᏁᎮᏍᏗ ᏂᎩᏤᎲ ᎢᏛᏗᏍᎬ ᎢᎩᏬᏂᎯᏍᏗ ᎠᏏ ᎬᏃᏗ ᎢᏳᎵᏍᏙᏗᎢ.”

– TRANSLATED BY DENNIS SIXKILLER

About the Author
Sean Rowley was hired by the Cherokee Phoenix at the beginning of 2019. Sean was born a long time ago in Tulsa, where he grew up and attended Booker T. Washington High School as a freshman before moving to Pawnee County and graduating from Cleveland High School in 1987. 

He graduated sans honors from Northeastern State University in 1992 with a bachelor of arts in mass communication with emphases in advertising and public relati ...
david-rowley@cherokee.org • 918-453-5560
Sean Rowley was hired by the Cherokee Phoenix at the beginning of 2019. Sean was born a long time ago in Tulsa, where he grew up and attended Booker T. Washington High School as a freshman before moving to Pawnee County and graduating from Cleveland High School in 1987. He graduated sans honors from Northeastern State University in 1992 with a bachelor of arts in mass communication with emphases in advertising and public relati ...

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09/17/2020 09:27 AM
The six-part series will look ba...